Saying yes

Perhaps it’s worthy of note that in my immediate family, partner and three children, I remain the only one whose body bears no adornment of the tattoo variety. By now, three eldest grandchildren have also chosen body art to make their unique statement.

I’ve nothing against body ink. But there’s never been an image that I wanted to portray that could stand the test of forever. What seemed central to my identity in younger, passionate days is by now not much more than a cocked eyebrow, as I consider the stream of stories and images that came before and after.

Mind you, that seventy plus year tradition was close to ending a year ago. Our wedding anniversary turned golden, and I came to the novel idea that I would mark that occasion by having a wedding ring tattooed on the appropriate finger.

I haven’t worn a ring for the last forty of those golden years. In early times, the ring was squashed, bent and hammered. It was also dropped a number of times, in fact our kids tell a story of it falling to the floor in the church of their childhood, rolling from the front of the sanctuary to the back under the pews during a particularly silent and soulful moment. Hammering occurred when my hand grew and I determined, rather than pay a jeweller to resize, that I would simply hammer on it on the anvil. As it got thinner, it would also grow in size, surely. Of course the etching on the ring that made it unique was badly marred. Shortly after, I decided that I wasn’t a ring guy.

But after fifty years with the same partner, surely she deserved a ring on the finger of her beloved! I visited a parlour, offered my vision of a tattooed ring, and was told that their custom was to avoid that kind of project, in case the relationship ended. By the time the giggling subsided, I had moved on. My partner will need to live with the unmarked risk of my fidelity.

In more recent days, another possibility has entered my limited thinking. I picture, on the inside fleshy part of my lower arm, the word, “Yes.”

I don’t have opinions of colours, or fonts or size. But I suspect that the vision of that word, “Yes,” won’t soon change.

“Yes” represents a direction, a decision, a determination of how to live. It represents moving forward, making those decisions in ways that heal, that include, that affirm, that blesses. The stories of creation, and all of it’s participants, flow in a more hopeful direction in a spirit of “Yes.”

Decades ago, (I may have been still wearing that ring) I recall leading a discussion group where I proposed that if we went through life with our decisions grounded in “yes,” that things would unfold much closer to the will of the Creator. An older man scoffed, how would yes be helpful when a child is reaching for a pot handle on the stove? It was obviously not a philosophy that he was eager to engage.

The Christ as described in the Gospels encounters a blind man. His supporters tell that troublemaker to go away, we’re busy, going to Jericho to preach the gospel, no time for this. Only the holy man says yes, and heals him. That inclusion is extended to lepers, the foreigner, the unclean.

Having “Yes” on my arm might remind me, at those times when it’s handier to forget, that living hopefully looks different. Much of our church experiences add credence to that forgotten lesson of “yes.” The biggest voices coming out of the church are often heard as “No.” As we have hopefully evolved in understandings of who we are called to be spiritually, we have mostly left behind humility. “No” is the natural result of that.

I don’t know if “Yes” will ever appear on my arm. That’s okay. I note in recent times that when I have a decision to make that calls for a guiding principle, I can already picture the ink, the word. I can see it, even if it’s not yet there. It makes a difference.

Life is good. “Yes” reminds me of that.